By Mick Minas
By early 1992, the Philadelphia 76ers were sick of Charles Barkley and Charles Barkley was sick of the Philadelphia 76ers. It had been eight years since Barkley was drafted by the Sixers and during this time there had been many highlights, like the 1989-90 season when he finished second in league MVP voting and led his team to the top of the Atlantic Division. But there had also been plenty of lows, like the night Barkley attempted to spit on a heckling fan and instead hit an eight year old girl who was sitting nearby.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, Philadelphia’s front office believed they had negotiated a good deal for their talented but troubled forward. Barkley would be sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Charles Smith, Ken Norman, Bo Kimble and a first round draft pick. For the Clippers this was a fantastic trade. Not only would it mean they secured the services of Barkley, one of the game’s premier talents, they had also done so while managing to hang on to their best two players at the time- Danny Manning and Ron Harper. This deal would give the Clippers one of the most talented starting line-ups in the entire league- Doc Rivers and Harper in the back-court, Barkley and Manning at forward and Olden Polynice at center.
However, this was a trade that never actually went ahead.
At first glance, it seems to be a pretty safe assumption that it was Philadelphia who backed out of the deal. After all, they were about to trade away one of the best players of all-time, in exchange for what was essentially a bunch of spare parts. However, in a remarkable turn of events, it was the Clippers, not the Sixers, who nixed the deal.
Both sides had agreed to the terms of the trade, before Larry Brown got cold feet. Brown had only recently taken over as the Clippers head coach, after Mike Schuler was fired in the middle of the season amidst great player unrest. At the time of the proposed trade, the Clippers were playing exceptionally well and surging up the Western Conference standings. In light of this, Brown was reluctant to make a big trade so early in his tenure, especially one where the Clippers were losing three young players, two of whom were starters (Smith and Norman).
So Barkley remained in Philadelphia for the rest of the season before joining Phoenix a few months later, where he was named league MVP in his first season, while leading the Suns to within two games of their first NBA title. Thus the story of Charles Barkley the Clipper remains nothing more than an enticing what-if moment in the history of the franchise.
To read more about Mick Minas' new book The Curse: The Colorful & Chaotic History of the LA Clippers click here. To purchase a copy click here.
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